Verlander vs. The Yankees: it hardly seems fair

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The Tigers are up 2-0 in the ALCS. They are back home in Detroit. The Yankees offense is sending scribes to the thesaurus to find new words to describe their anemic offense ( feeble, infirm, pallid, sickly, wan, impotent, debilitated, decrepit, enervated, faint, flaccid, forceless, frail, impuissant).  And, oh yeah, Justin Verlander is on the mound for the Tigers.

Should we even bother playing this game?

OK, I oversell the point, but you do hear what I’m saying, yes?  Things look bleak for the Yankees and they could not be set up any more favorably for the Tigers who, after Verlander pitches, get two more games at home, with the next one started by Max Scherzer. Not that it much matters who the Tigers put out on the mound because, with the exception of mostly-demoted closer Jose Valverde, no Detroit pitcher has allowed an earned run since Game 3 of the division series against Oakland.

The Yankees situation, on the other hand, is dire. Derek Jeter is out for the year after breaking an ankle in Game 1. Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are a combined 12 for 107 in seven postseason games, and the world is facing a shortage of the letter K thanks to so many of them being used to fill out Yankees scorecards.

Is there any hope for New York?

Sure there is. This is baseball, and if we have learned anything so far this postseason, we’ve learned that there is no such thing as momentum. If there was, Robinson Cano would still be hitting like he did at the end of the regular season and New York would have won Game 1 of this series after mounting that four-run comeback in the ninth inning against Jose Valverde on Saturday.  So where is the hope? How about here:

  • The Yankees aren’t afraid of Verlander: The Yankees faced Justin Verlander three times in 2012 and they won two of those games, notching 25 hits in 20 and a third innings. Granted, the Yankees had help from the Tigers defense in a couple of those outings — of the 12 runs Verlander surrendered to New York, five were unearned — but simply being able to make that kind of contact off Verlander shows that the Yankees are not going to simply lie down for the Tigers ace;
  • The Tigers bullpen is still a hot mess. We saw Jose Valverde melt down in Game 1, which has likely forced him out of closing situations, but Jim Leyland says he’ll still use Papa Grande at some point and that’s good news for the Yankees.  The Tigers used Phil Coke for a two inning save in Game 2, and other late inning options include Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Al Alburquerque. Any of those guys are capable of blowing a lead at any moment.
  • The Yankees bats can’t stay cold forever. Slumps happen, but they eventually end. Maybe the Yankees’ bats won’t wake up until they get to Tampa next February, but with the hitting talent New York possesses, it is not hard to envision them simply snapping out of their current funk and putting up ten runs at some point. This isn’t some scared, overmatched first time playoff team here. This is the New York Freakin’ Yankees.

Of course, hope is an uncertain thing. Justin Verlander in a big game is far less uncertain.  The smart money — if you’re dumb enough to bet on baseball anyway — has to be on Detroit tonight.  With their ace behind the wheel and the Yankees hitters looking like roadkill lately, the Tigers appear to be on the road to the World Series.

The Mets absolutely demolished the Phillies 24-4

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The first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Mets in Philadelphia didn’t go so well for the Phillies. The pitching staff — which included two position players — served up 24 runs on 25 hits and seven walks. The defense also committed four errors.

The most damage came in the top of the fifth inning when the Mets hung a 10-spot. That inning featured a balk, two errors, and a grand slam from José Bautista. In the seventh, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler called on position player Roman Quinn to pitch. Quinn gave up a leadoff home run to Michael Conforto. After José Reyes singled, Quinn uncorked a wild pitch, which moved Reyes into scoring position. Kevin Plawecki then knocked him in with a single. In the eighth, the Mets jumped on Quinn again as he loaded the bases, then forced in two runs with walks and gave up a two-run double to Plawecki. Kapler brought in another position player, Scott Kingery, to pitch. Kingery gave up an RBI single to reliever Jerry Blevins before getting out of the eighth inning. Kingery gave up two more runs in the ninth before the game went in the books.

Kingery, by the way, was pitching so slowly that his velocity wasn’t being picked up by the radar guns at Citizens Bank Park, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

In total, the Phillies’ pitching staff gave up 11 earned runs. It’s the most unearned runs a team has allowed since May 5, 2016 when the Giants gave up 17 runs, only six of which were earned, to the Rockies. The only other time that happened in the 2000’s was on September 28, 2000 when the Blue Jays gave up 23 runs, 10 of which were earned, to the Orioles. A team has yielded 11 or more unearned runs in a single game only 11 times since 1943. The 24 total runs the Phillies allowed were the most a team has allowed since… the Mets gave up 25 to the Nationals on July 31 this year. The 24 runs the Mets scored marked a franchise record. They also became the first team since 1894 to both score 24-plus runs and allow 24-plus runs in a game in the same season.

Thankfully for Phillies fans, Thursday afternoon’s contest was only broadcast on Facebook Live. Which, by the way, is another one of Major League Baseball’s brilliant marketing ideas. When games are broadcast on Facebook Live, they’re blacked out everywhere else, which includes cable TV and MLB.tv.